State not ready to fine Red Cliff
The state’s Department of Health and Environment has no plans to fine Red Cliff for missing a May 30 deadline to fix its ailing water tank.”Our focus right now is on a return to compliance, rather than enforcement of fines,” said Christopher Dann, a department spokesman.The health department has ordered Red Cliff to fix its faulty water treatment and wastewater facilities. The town’s residents have endured on-again, off-again boil orders to ensure drinking water is safe when the water plant fails. The wastewater system doesn’t treat water properly, dumping contaminated fluid into the stream below. The town received a laundry list of orders, with the first and foremost task being to fix its water tank by May 30 or face $1,000 daily fines. Shortly before that date, Mayor Ramon Montoya wrote a letter to the department outlining the town’s plans to address the problem and asked for a six-month extension to fix the tank.
“We are in the process of evaluating that and at the moment it has not been granted,” Dann said. State officials plan to submit a written response to Red Cliff’s request.Red Cliff, with about 300 residents, has an annual operating budget of $800,000. The town’s water and sewer treatments problems have existed for decades and despite building new water and sewage plants in the last few years, they aren’t working.Town officials hoped to temporarily patch the water tank’s leak, but it wasn’t possible, Montoya said. In the meantime, Eagle River Water and Sanitation employees are evaluating the water tank for free. If the town can’t fix the plant, it will likely have to be replaced.
With that in mind, Red Cliff is searching for a used water tank from another town in the state. The health department’s order requires Red Cliff obtain an engineer to fix its plant. So far, the town has received “a half-dozen” responses from engineering firms to fix the plant, Montoya said.Also hoping to gain ground on the sewage treatment plant problem, the town is negotiating with a company to pump the sludge out of that plant, Montoya said. “Right now, the plant is functioning as a sewage concentrator,” said Town Board Trustee Jim Bradford. “If we can get the sludge out, it frees it up to try and operate it better.”
Red Cliff residents’ use of water also taxes the water treatment and sewage treatment plants. Because the water lines frequently freeze during the winter, many residents “bleed their lines” by keeping their faucets running at all times. Some keep their faucets running full blast and neither plan can handle the load. The Board of Trustees passed a resolution recently that will allow the town to install water meters on every residence and business. The deadline to install those meters is Sept. 1. The town is still working on new pricing system that will charge by usage. Currently, users are charged a universal fee for water and sewer.Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.
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